ECM debut for Michael Formanek, whose formidable bass has propelled groups from the Mingus Big Band to Tim Berne’s Bloodcount and has backed artists as diverse as Chet Baker and Elvis Costello. A bandleader and composer in his own right, he is heard here with some highly-talented colleagues in an outgoing programme of his own pieces, whose unorthodox constructions set up strong solos and fiery group interaction.
PA-born pianist Degen has a hell of a resume: in the 60's, he lived in Germany, playing with expatriates Art Farmer & Leo Wright, returned to the USA where he had a trio with Paul Motian & Gary Peacock (unrecorded) and played in Buddy DeFranco's Glenn Miller Band, then returned to Germany & joined Albert Mangelsdorf's group. In '97, he braved Brooklyn to make this fine trio date. The easiest way to sum up Degen's style is a cross between early-to-mid-'70s Bill Evans with late 60's / early '70s McCoy Tyner: full-bodied, two-handed sound and consistently lyrical without ever being predictable. He's at his most Evans-esque on "Ode to Sammy Davis Jr." and recalls Herbie Nichols on "Round Trip". Formanek rules, playing Scott Lafaro to Degen's Evans (though neither are mere knock-offs).
Chandos exclusive artist Michael Collins here presents the second volume in his series designed to display the extraordinarily wide range of music written for the clarinet. Volume 1 was BBC Music Magazine Editor’s Choice and received IRR Outstanding from International Record Review, which stated: ‘It is difficult to imagine a finer performance than is given here.’ Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie was written as a test piece for the Paris Conservatoire and contrasts long lyrical lines with capricious acrobatics for the clarinet, being described by the composer as ‘hovering between reverie and scherzo’.
Michael Head, former frontman of the Pale Fountains and current co-leader along with his brother John – who is also a Strand – of Brit pop outfit Shack, turns in a stellar chamber pop performance with Magical World of the Strands. Head, who is no stranger to either classy, baroque pop or neo-psychedelia, has composed an album of gorgeously illustrated songs that are lushly orchestrated by a standard rock quartet augmented by a flutist (Leslie Roberts) and a string quartet. The result is an album that, while little known, is a classic, a masterpiece of modern chamber pop.